By Melissa Silverstein | Women and Hollywood May 4, 2012 at 10:33AM
The Perfect Family written by Paula Goldberg and Claire V. Reily and directed by Anne Renton and produced by Cora Olson and Jen Dubin hits theatres and VOD today. It tells the story of Eileen Cleary played by Kathleen Turner, a very religious Catholic woman whose life falls apart when she gets nominated for Catholic Woman of the Year. She walk the walk of the church and is desperately struggling with the fact that both her children are not "perfect" in the church's eyes -- her daughter played by Emily Deschanel is a lesbian having a baby and getting married to her partner, and her son played by Jason Ritter is getting divorced and seeing an older woman.
She spends the movie struggling with hiding these secrets (among many others) from the church but she also realizes that she will lose her family and the things that are most important to her if she does not figure out how to combine her beliefs with the realities of the world around her.
Director Anne Renton answered some questions by email about the film.
Women and Hollywood: This film touches on many contemporary issues like gay marriage yet at times the character of Eileen seems like she has been left in a past that does not exist anymore. Was that a challenge with the character?
Anne Renton: Eileen Cleary’s world is very real to her, though her dated beliefs and ways of being in the world are definitely not in line with her modern family. Eileen’s periphery is somewhat frozen and she has not particularly grown with society and the times. So, for her home and her world, we really went for a dated look with a small town, slow feel. It was important to set up the character in a way to help us to understand how she maneuvers in the world. The challenge was to make sure the realism of the situation was being portrayed and not the comedy or “joke” in scenes. Kathleen and I were totally on the same page with the material and she embodied Eileen in a very authentic way, giving humanity to the character the audience sees.
WaH: My favorite line is when Kathleen Turner's character Eileen says "I don't have to think I am a catholic" - what does that line say about Catholicism today?
AR: Well, neither that line nor the movie makes an overall comment on Catholicism in my opinion. Rather, our focus was on telling a relatable story about a family. Although Catholicism is the backdrop for the film, it could really be any organized religion where people may be expected to agree with and live by rules and ideas presented by individuals who are in the position/s of power within that organization. Catholicism was presented in the original script, and worked because it is so widely known and recognized. In the moment when Kathleen Turner’s character delivers the line, we see she is a woman who truly believes this statement. Just prior to that moment, Eileen’s daughter pushed her to try to find her own authentic voice. It was evident she became frustrated as she does not really know what she feels. So what gets blurted out is a line that audience often find quite amusing, while at the same time it is Eileen’s absolute truth in that moment.
WaH: One of the most important story lines of the film is a mother/daughter story where these two characters struggle to see each other and to figure out how to love each other even though they are so apart of many issues. What does this film teach us about tolerance?
AR: Yes, this relationship in the film explores how a mother and daughter with totally different views and belief systems in life have to navigate difficult terrain. I think what this film shows is how important it is to really speak one’s truth in relationships. There is so much love underlying all the differences in this family (as you have said), and ultimately that is what is most important and what allows them to make the choice to show up for each other.